I’d little intention of becoming a teacher when a child, but I fell into it, a rut I kneeled in for the best part of 30 years. I was held there partly because I like teaching, the students, but mainly because of salary security. I should have left to start a freelance business.

Yesterday though I realised again how misguided that career longevity was.

I found a pay slip from 2008, some ten years ago, which stated my net earnings, which was only £200 less than when I last taught in 2015.

The job got worse, the workload increased, and the pay fell behind year on year.

I was held though in the classroom in a paroxysm of paralysis because:

  1. It was all I knew.
  2. I was good at teaching English.
  3. I feared losing the salary.

I was stupid.

What you need to do if you’re in a job, like teaching, where the pay is diminishing, the workload increasing and it starts to make you ill (it did with me) is ring last orders and leave that job for good.

I wish I’d done it in 2008, 1998, 1988 – just for some decadic symmetry and gone freelance and become a writer / web designer / social media manager yonks ago.

Here’s how you can start a freelance business, earn more, with greater satisfaction, than working in some soul-destroying job.

SKILLS and PASSIONS. I’m a skilful writer, an excellent reader, a creative thinker, who loves crafting words, particularly in the property sector. I’m good at multi-tasking, prioritising, have a good natured approach to working with people. I can’t though do anything practical like decorating, DIY. I knew I could write: I knew it motivated me – so this business was born in November 2015. Best thing I ever did.

REPLACE THAT SALARY. It’s no easy step saying goodbye to a permanent job, with holiday pay, a consistent salary, a pension. It’s safe to stay where you are. I knew I had to turn those skills and passions into pay and it has. Not at first. £25 profit in the first month, but now, with my hand in a Pandora’s box of activities: GCSE exam marking, content writing, social media management, blogging, I’m earning more than that teacher salary, without the stress and misery.

KEEP OUTGOINGS LOW. Apart from the website hosting and my payments for social media scheduling tools, my outgoings are lower than my iPhone contract. I made a profit in month one (about £18 admittedly) but by maintaining a firm tiller on spending (as I type on my new office on my big iMac) I make a good living, by not having bastard bosses, a commute, stress by being freelance and self-employed, writing mainly for the property industry (check out Property Blogs) and website work.

DON’T OVERPRICE AT THE OUTSET. When I started out as a “freelance writer” I must have reeked of desperation as I worked for peanuts – Tesco Value ones too – and was exploited. As the business and brand has grown, I’ve steadily increased prices but not to the point where I’m taking people for a ride. I have rivals in the property content marketing and web design game who charge double and triple what I do. But I see it like this. I have few void periods where I’m thumb twiddling waiting for work, which must mean my pricing and quality is spot on. I get paid cashews now and always in advance.

WRITE A PLAN. I don’t mean going overboard on business plan templates. The plan is quite simple in my view: what I love doing and how do I get paid for doing that. Your business will take a year to take off (this did). I had a 5 year plan to take me to 55 – not in some spreadsheet or document but in my head and it’s working out as envisaged. I’ve had some setbacks on the way – mainly to do with clients. But I’ve learned this “I control my business” now and unlike, when employed in schools or estate agency, others don’t control me. I’ve met many challenging clients and misguidedly tried to manage them when the best course of action I realise 3 years on is to not engage with clients who are difficult at the outset. You should do the same. Take criticism yes but be controlled and micro-managed? Hell, no. You left that salary behind to gain freedom.

START YOUR DIGITAL PRESENCE. Buy a domain from a good hosting company like Vidahost, get a logo designed, think up some content and decide on your blended social media strategy. A decent website with all social media included (Facebook page, Twitter profile, Instagram account, LinkedIn company page and LinkedIn personal profile all set up) should not cost you more than £500 for a 4 page website. If you want products, Ecommerce, a shop, a payment platform, expect to pay more obviously. If you’ve got a website that is poor, get it changed. If you haven’t got a website, design one yourself or pay someone to do it. A decent website company should offer you free hosting too, so just stick to a domain purchase at the outset and get a logo designed professionally in PNG and JPEG formats.

BE PATIENT. Easier said than done perhaps when you’ve salary sacrificed, but being successful will take a year. Maybe longer. A temptation then is to throw the towel in and hotfoot it back to paid employment, but if you work at online and physical networking, your website output (get blogging daily at the outset) and your social media channels, you will become successful. You will gather great testimonials too.

To sum up, find something you love doing (Confucius was an original G), make a plan, get a website and think long term.

In  2015, if someone had said to me “Stuart, leaving teaching will be the best thing you ever did” I’d have been cynical.

It’s true though.

Become your own boss and wave goodbye to commutes, office politics, workload, crap pay and mostly, those bosses, who micro-manage and put themselves first.

Want more advice on how to start a freelance business?

Drop me an email, message me on social media or ring that mobile number on the page banner.

I will help you start a freelance business.

Pinky promise.

%name stuart walton